The role of the wife in your pastoral ministry should always be unofficial. In other words, it’s important to remember that you, not her, are the one who has been called and ordained by the church to serve as a pastor. On the other hand, your wife has a unique unofficial function that many others serving in other vocations do not have. For most men, their wives do not regularly accompany them to work, ever. For the pastor, while there are session meetings and counseling sessions where his wife is absent, his wife goes with him to work every week! The wife will typically attend church with her husband which means that she is at work with her husband—she sees many of the same things that the pastor sees, but from a different perspective, and at other times, she will see many things the pastor will never see.
Let me illustrate this observation with several examples. My wife would sometimes serve in the nursery during the worship service. She saw what happened in the nursery when I could not—I was in the sanctuary leading the worship service and preaching. She would alert me to things, such as certain individuals always serving in the nursery, which meant that they wouldn’t be in the church service. Or she would alert me to some mothers congregating in the nursery during the worship service—they were basically playing hooky. Keep in mind, my wife wasn’t purposefully spying or investigating but simply alerting me to things I wouldn’t normally see. I was able to take appropriate steps to address these issues.
In another instance, my wife alerted me to problems in a family long before I ever received formal notification. To put it simply, women see things somewhat differently than men do. There are many things in this life to which men are blind and literally bumble around. Men can be unaware, for example, that a woman is flirting with them—this is something that a wife can instantaneously spot a country mile away. Along these lines, my wife spotted one of the wives in our church one Sunday—this woman’s clothes were a bit more form-fitting than usual, her hair was done-up very nicely, she was wearing make-up, more so than usual, and my wife noted that she had slimmed down. I just thought she was dressed nicely, my wife, on the other hand, privately and discreetly told me, “If I were a betting woman, I’d say she was having an affair.” At first, I was surprised and thought my wife was being a little too judgmental, so we talked about it and she explained that to see dramatic changes like that in a woman’s dress, comportment, and weight was often an indicator that other things were going on in her life. I left the conversation unconvinced and told no one else about it. Six months later I was surprised and a bit chagrined that my wife was correct. This woman eventually personally confessed to the session that she was engaged in an affair and that it started around the time that my wife had noted her change in appearance.
All of this is to say, for those of you who are married and are in the pastorate or headed there, I suspect one of the reasons why you married your wife was because you value her judgment and wisdom. It would be foolish, therefore, to ignore what she has to say about the things she observes in the church. You do not have to divulge or break any confidences in order to be a good listener, to listen to what your wife has to say about what she observes in the church. You don’t have to ask your wife what she observes either. You simply have to engage your wife in regular conversation about life in the church and then listen to what she has to say. Chances are you will find valuable observations and insights to which you are blind or lack the ability to perceive.